Best-Looking Sports Cars

Jamie Page Deaton

You’re shopping sports cars because you’re a driving enthusiast. It’s all about the speed, form is following function, and you don’t care how you look because you’ll be going so fast no one will be able to see the car anyway.

Yeah, right.

Part of the appeal of any sports car is how it looks. Driving a sports car says a lot about you, and what’s said is communicated through the car’s design. All about raw power? Go for a muscle car. Into classic designs? Look for something with a rich design heritage. Like to attack curves? Go for something with sleek aggressive looks. And if you really are all about form following function, go for a sports car that’s designed with the fastest possible track times in mind.

Even if you don’t care what your sports car looks like, odds are it will look good. Sports cars are where car companies show off the best of what their designers can do. And even cars that place performance over design tend to be stylish. These cars tend to have expressive creases in their sheet metal, aerodynamic shapes and aggressively arched wheel wells. Luckily, all of those design cues help improve a sports car’s performance.

While it’s tempting to think that all sports cars look the same, there’s actually a fair amount of variation. Although there are certain design features that help make a sports car a sports car, within the class there are several distinct styling trends. That means that even if a car’s looks aren’t as important to you as its performance, it’s easy to find a sports car that’s as stylish as it is powerful.

Best-Looking Classic Sports Cars

 Some sports cars’ designs haven’t changed much from when they were first introduced. It’s not that the designers are lazy; if something works, you don’t change it. The Mazda MX-5 Miata’s classic looks have helped make it the best-selling sports car of all time. And while there have been a few changes since it hit the market -- including a retractable hardtop and the loss of headlights that rise out of the car’s hood -- the current MX-5 Miata is instantly recognizable as a close relative of the first. A better-known classic sports car design is the Porsche 911 Carrera. Not only does the current model follow the iconic shape of the original 911 (though the current model is technically the 997), but its rounded headlights and rear end hark back to the original Porsche 356. The Nissan 370z is a newer model, but takes much of its design from classic Z cars of the 1970’s -- back when Nissan was Datsun.

Best-Looking Modern Sports Cars

Just as classic sports cars use their designs to announce their heritage, modern-looking sports cars use their style to show off the sophisticated technology under the hood and the thoroughly modern performance they turn in. The Chevrolet Corvette is a storied model, but the current generation with its sharply chiseled lines looks more like a stealth bomber than the original Corvette. The Nissan GT-R is one of the most technologically advanced sports cars you can buy, and it looks like it.  The Audi R8 looks so futuristic that it’s been used in movies, like I, Robot, which take place in the future.

Best-Looking Muscle Cars

Many of today’s muscle cars could also be considered classic sports car designs because they use retro design cues that draw from the classic muscle cars of the 1960s and 1970s. But they also differ from classic sports cars in one key way:  muscle cars look mean. While classic sports cars typically have rounded edges, muscle cars have squared-off corners and angles. That’s because muscle cars are about all-out power, not handling. The Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Charger are all modern takes on classic muscle-car designs. That means that they’re bigger than your typical sports car, with sedan-like stances and profiles. For buyers, that means getting more attention (as well as a roomier interior) and the ability to show off at the drag strip.  The Charger, though it has an iconic name, has a completely revamped muscle-car design, with four doors and an aggressive front end that’s about as in-your-face as a car design can be.

Best-Looking Convertibles

Enzo Ferrari famously said that convertibles were just for playboys, but when you’re zipping down the road with the wind in your hair and jealous looks from other drivers, it’s easy to tell Enzo to stuff it. Convertibles have always been synonymous with sports cars, and some of the most attractive sports car designs are drop tops. Almost every good-looking sports car has a convertible version -- even muscle cars do.  And taking the top off is a sure-fire way to make a great car design look even better. Stand-alone convertible models are also plenty stylish. The Porsche Boxster may be one of the least expensive Porsches you can buy, but it’s also one of the best-looking. The BMW Z4, with its retractable hardtop, goes from an aggressive coupe to a sleek roadster at the touch of a button. Finally, the Mercedes Benz SLK combines the aggressive looks of a performance car with the sleek, upscale style of a luxury convertible.

Best-Looking Track Cars

If you’re more concerned with whipping around the track than you are cruising the strip, you’ll want a sports car that puts function over fashion. Luckily, those cars tend to look pretty good just the same.  The Lotus Elise and Exige aren’t practical from a day-to-day standpoint, lacking standard features like air conditioning and a radio. Plus, they’re low to the ground with high door sills, which make getting in and out an exercise in gymnastics. That aside, these two cars look like nothing else on the road. Their sheet metal is sculpted to reduce wind resistance and improve downforce. The result is two cars that look like space-age robots. The same is true for the Lamborghini Aventador. It has a wedge shape that lets it slice through the air. While it looks good, the Aventador’s styling lets everyone know that the car is all about the business of speed.